March 21, 2016
All the seeds we started for the next gardening season are growing nicely. Soon, it will be time to transplant them into the outdoor vegetable and flower beds. For now, they are being nurtured indoors where temperature, humidity and light can be properly controlled.
Starting from seed is not difficult to do, but it does require careful attention and patience. And, once the seedlings start to develop, it’s important to keep up with maintenance care - thin out seedlings that are weak, prick out those that are growing too big for their seed starting trays, and transplant them into larger pots and flats.
I can’t wait to see these tiny sprouts grow into strong, prolific plants in my gardens. Enjoy these photos.
1 The seedlings for my vegetables and flowers are in different stages of growth. As they germinate and begin to mature, it's important to conduct regular maintenance care, so they continue to thrive.
2 Regardless of how perfect seeds may appear, germination is never guaranteed, so multiple seeds are always planted in each seed starting tray cell. This provides a better chance at least one in each cell will take root.
3 When the seedlings are a couple inches tall, and have reached their "true leaf" stage, which is when each seedling has sprouted a second set of leaves, it's time for a process called selective thinning.
4 Selective thinning prevents overcrowding, so seedlings don't have any competition for soil nutrients or room to grow.
5 When thinning, carefully inspect the seedlings and determine the strongest ones. Look for fleshy leaves, upright stems, and center positioning in the space.
6 The smaller, weaker, more spindly looking seedling are removed, leaving only the stronger ones to mature.
7 Once selective thinning is complete, there should only be one seedling in each cell of the seed starting tray or container.
8 As they grow, all the seedlings are inspected and thinned where needed. This offers the best environment for the stronger, more healthy, growing sprouts.
9 Th stronger plants now have more room to grow before getting transplanted into larger pots or into the ground.
10 As seedlings outgrow seed starting cell trays, they also need to be pricked out and transferred to individual pots, or larger trays.
11 A good quality organic mix designed for seedlings will be fast draining, and light. It will usually contain sphagnum moss and perlite or vermiculite. These mixes are formulated to encourage strong, healthy growth in new plants.
12 This is a great multipurpose tool for seed starting - it's from Johnny's Selected Seeds. It's called a widger. It has a convex stainless steel blade that delicately separates seedlings. http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-9765-widger.aspx
13 These 10-inch gardening tweezers are also helpful for handling young plants.
14 Fill the new, larger tray cells, or pots, with the appropriate seed mix, and using a finger, poke a hole in the center of the space.
15 When it is time to move the seedling, carefully loosen the soil around the seedling with the widger. The widger also helps to avoid damage to the plant's leaves, or roots.
16 Place the seedling in the hole and gently firm up the surrounding soil. Avoid handling the seedling by its tender stems, which bruise easily.
17 The growing seedling will remain in the new larger cell tray or pot until it is ready to plant into the ground.
18 The purpose of transplanting the seedlings is to give them enough room - overcrowding can stress the sprouts.
20 Experiment with pots made from different materials to see which ones work best for what plants. And, always choose containers or trays that have proper drainage holes at the bottom.
21 Keep all seed starting trays moist and in a warm, sunny place. Here is how the onion seeds look about one month after planting. They are very green and healthy.
22 After the seedlings were transferred, they were given a good drink and returned to the greenhouse table to continue growing for a few more weeks.
23 Blackie, our greenhouse cat, loves to watch over the seedlings from this warm corner by the window.
24 We've planted thousands of seeds this winter - I am looking forward to another productive growing season.